The Star Wars Holiday Special (1978)

Thought you might like this. It's a...well, it's kind of hard to explain...it's a...WOW! You know what I mean? Happy Life Day. And I do mean happy Life Day.
--Saun Dann, prior to...oh, you'll find out

I know what you're thinking. "Ho hum, another review of The Star Wars Holiday Special is up on the Internet, as if there's still a handful of sci-fi geeks out there who haven't already seen it." Well, apparently you just can't truly call yourself a geek nowadays if you haven't seen this heinous affront to science fiction lore. There was a review for it on a B-movie review site by the name of StompTokyo.com where I first heard about it, it's on a number of respected and semi-respected bad movie review sites, just last year the Nostalgia Critic took it on, and now I'd like to throw my hat in the ring and rip this crap shoot a new one.

Besides, for those few of you who haven't seen it, at least me reviewing it for you will save you the trouble of actually watching it.

So yeah, Star Wars. A science fiction classic and the highest grossing movie of 1977. It was so successful that the producers decided to get together and make a holiday special out of it, complete with the entire cast (except for Sir Alec Guinness, seeing as how his character died in the original movie, though he still should get a posthumous medal for skipping this one) as well as some guests--namely Harvey Korman, Art Carney, Bea Arthur and the musical talents of Jefferson Starship. Its first and only TV broadcast was on November 17, 1978 at 8pm Eastern on CBS. Since then George Lucas, who had little if anything to do with the special, has outright disowned it, while it has survived over the years on bootleg videotapes and DVDs. Today it can even be found on YouTube, where new generations of nerds can witness this utter travesty to the first of three of the best sci-fi films ever made.

The general premise of The Star Wars Holiday Special is thus: Han Solo (Harrison Ford) must evade a fleet of Imperial starships to get his co-pilot Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew in a suit of shag carpet) to his home planet of Kashyyyk so he can celebrate the ambiguously named Life Day holiday with his family, consisting of his wife Malla, his father Itchy, and his son Lumpy.

Wait...Lumpy? Who names his kid Lumpy? That's just asking to have him beaten up in the schoolyard on a regular basis.

Well, actually, according to the Star Wars Wiki, his real name is Lumpawarrump...THAT'S A WORSE NAME!!

I'm telling you, these newfangled 3D TVs are a waste of money.

Anyway, a majority of the special focuses on the surname-less Wookiee family, who are anxiously anticipating Chewbacca's return while trying to get on with their Life Day celebration. At least, that's what I think is going on. It's kinda hard to tell. Every bit of dialogue they have consist of their trademark grunting noises. MOST OF THIS SPECIAL IS SPOKEN ENTIRELY IN WOOKIEE LANGUAGE. WITH NO ENGLISH SUBTITLES. I understand they wanted us to discern what was going on through body language, but when Malla wanted Lumpy to take a big basket outside, I couldn't tell if she wanted him to take out the trash or hang the washing out to dry.

So then Itchy turns on what looks like the chess table from the Millennium Falcon so Lumpy can watch...what I can best describe as a circus performed by a bunch of miniaturized acrobats and jugglers dressed like brine shrimp set to the strangest 70s music I've ever heard. Then Malla calls Lumpy to wash dishes or something, I can't tell, as she and Itchy call Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill, though with that much makeup he looks more like Dorothy Hamill) and R2D2 (credited as himself) regarding Chewbacca's whereabouts. He doesn't know, so instead the Wookiees call on their old friend and Rebel sympathizer Saun Dann (Art Carney) who is busy helping a deep-voiced Imperial guard and tells them in code that Chewie's on his way. Meanwhile in a brief unused scene from the original movie, Darth Vader (voice of James Earl Jones) in one of only three lines he has in this special, orders a search for the Rebels...even if it means searching every household in the system.

Dude looks like a lady!

In our next segment, Malla turns on a cooking show, featuring Harvey Korman dressed like Rosie the Robot's grandmother as a TV chef whom our hirsute housewife cooks along with. This sketch quickly devolves into endless repetitions of stir, whip, stir, whip, whip, whip, stir, beat, stir, whip, beat, whip, beat, stir, whip, stir, whip, stir, beat, whip, stir, stir, beat, whip, stir, whip, beat


Ow! Oh...sorry about that.

With Han and Chewie still being chased by Imperial fighters, the Wookiee family continues to worry as an Imperial soldier comes on a TV screen declaring martial law and forbidding any ship to leave the planet. Then Saun Dann stops by with some presents for the family--something which looks like a new toaster oven for Malla, some type of radio device for Lumpy, and a virtual reality helmet chair for Itchy which he decides to try out. This leads to a trippy sequence where we see Diahann Carroll in a skimpy outfit act as Itchy's dream girl and sing a slow love song while Itchy appears to be--and I cannot possibly sugar-coat this for you--masturbating to it.

A giant carpet man pleasuring himself to a video of a human woman. Happy Life Day, kids!

Diahann Carroll as the Twelfth Doctor.

Next, Malla gets a call from Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher, hair buns and all) and C3PO (Anthony Daniels)...all these English actors so far in this special begs the question--how can everyone who speaks English on this show know what these Wookiees are saying and yet WE CAN'T?! C3PO has an excuse because he can translate any language, but WHAT ABOUT EVERYONE ELSE!! How can Malla follow along to an English language cooking show and yet she can't just speak English?

An update on Chewie's predicament tells us that he's finally made it to Kashyyyk. When a ship is heard flying overhead the family gets excited and rush to the door to greet the family patriarch but are instead greeted themselves by a pair of Imperial storm troopers!

They search the house for Rebels (totally missing a picture of Chewbacca that was sitting on an upper shelf in the living room) while Saun Dann talks LITERALLY ENDLESSLY to the superior officer about the identification he's supposed to show them. During this, a guard confiscates Malla's toaster oven thingy which Saun Dann turns on for him. Inside the toaster oven is 70s rock group Jefferson Starship, who perform "Light the Sky On Fire" while draped in purple lights and special effects. The guard appears totally mesmerized.

Why is he singing into a light saber? And why aren't his lips burning off?

After this, the storm troopers trash Lumpy's bedroom while Lumpy walks over to a small TV contraption with headphones and switches on a cartoon about his father and the Millennium Falcon's exploits. If I had to choose ONE SEGMENT from this special which I don't really mind, it would be this one. Despite some strange character designs which has R2D2 wiggling like rubber, C3PO suddenly with the ability to blink his eyes and Han not being able to OPEN his eyes, it isn't really that bad. It's kinda cool that they got the original actors to do the voices (including James Earl Jones for his other two lines in the whole special) and the animation and backgrounds aren't too bad either. Though again I must bring up the language barrier--nearly everyone speaks English in this segment and yet every written word ISN'T in English.

Oh, and obligatory mention of this marking the debut of Boba Fett in the Star Wars universe.

Ordered upstairs into his room, Lumpy pulls out his Life Day present which comes with a strange instructional video--featuring, once again, Harvey Korman as a malfunctioning android giving instructions on how to assemble it. While this is going on, the Imperial guys for reasons which have nothing to do with the plot decide to watch some TV. It's a show about life on Tatooine, which segues to the Mos Eisley cantina, where Bea Arthur works as barkeep and gets hit on by the third incarnation of Harvey Korman (so soon?) as an alien who drinks through a hole in his head. When the bar is forced to close because of a sudden Imperial curfew, Bea must get all of her drunken patrons (including a creature named Ludlow who looks suspiciously like Greedo) out right away, and she does this with a song which sounds like it has a thousand verses in it in what feels like the longest segment in this whole special.

Sheesh, the cutaways on Family Guy are shorter than this.


Back at Casa del Wookiee, Lumpy and his radio toy trick the Imperial troops into FINALLY leaving, but not before one of them catches on to it. He then chases the little proto-Ewok out to his front porch, but just before he has himself a new skin rug for his trophy room, Han and Chewie FINALLY show up and force the storm trooper to trip on his own gun over a railing to his death. (Did I mention that Wookiees live in really high tree houses?) Han says hello to the family before heading back to the Falcon. Saun Dann briefly comes back to ward off the Imperial officer looking for the now-dead storm trooper, and NOW the Life Day celebration can begin.

As part of the festivities, the Wookiees...hold glass balls up in the air which...transport them into space...where they're wearing robes all of a sudden, and then...a whole bunch of other Wookiees...wearing robes...walk into this bright light...and then they're in this...room with a smoke machine grunting at each other, and...R2D2 and C3PO are there, and...then Luke, Leia and Han show up...

Okay, what IS Life Day supposed to be about?! I know it's a Wookiee holiday similar to Christmas or Hannukah or something like that, but what is the point of it?! Why are they celebrating? WHAT are they celebrating?? What do the glass balls symbolize? Why are they in space?! Why are they wearing robes?! What was that bright light they were all walking into? What did we sit through a Wookiee sitcom, three songs, brine shrimp gymnastics, Harvey Korman in alien drag, an implicit Wookiee masturbation scene and a guy ripping the head off a stuffed Bantha for?!

But wait. It gets WORSE. Leia gives a cheesy speech about hope and love and the fight against the powers of evil and darkness and the promise of the Tree of Life (is that what they're standing in front of? I can't tell, nobody mentioned a tree) and then sings the ABSOLUTE WORST SONG EVER ASSOCIATED WITH A HOLIDAY SPECIAL, OR HOLIDAYS IN GENERAL, even worse than that Chipmunk song or Mariah Carey's "All I Want for Christmas". And to dump a bucket of lemon juice on the wound, it's set to the Star Wars theme. Don't bother looking for it on YouTube. It's not worth it. Your ears will hate you for the rest of your life.

Then after some scenes from the original movie interspersed with Chewie's blank stare remind you that there's a better thing you could be watching right now, we see Chewie and his family sitting down to dinner...or maybe holding a seance, I don't know, I don't care anymore...as the credits finally, MERCIFULLY roll.

I know what you're thinking. No, this is not the real life, this is just fantasy.

Why is it that whenever something with a wide-reaching niche audience suddenly decides to adapt the latest trend, it all goes so horribly wrong? It's like when old cartoon franchises were revitalized during the 80s and 90s with new shows which deliberately ripped off The Muppet Babies, or nowadays when channels like TV Land and Cartoon Network throw their original programming slate out the window just so they can air more reality shows. This is no different. This isn't The Star Wars Holiday Special; this is the Star Wars VARIETY SHOW. It's George Lucas' most famous movie franchise as a comedy, song and dance extravaganza not unlike Sonny and Cher or Donny and Marie. It's exactly as cheesy and even more of an embarrassment to watch now.

As a matter of fact, maybe the best way to get people to stop watching this is to pimp it out as a variety show instead of a straightforward Christmas special. Nobody watches variety shows anymore, as Rosie O'Donnell proved in 2008, so perhaps if we put The Star Wars Holiday Special on the same shelf as this, maybe we'll start avoiding it like the plague.

Ah, who am I kidding, we'd still watch it out of curiosity.

Fine, then. Dig out your bootlegs. We warned you, though.

People were very easily entertained in the 70s, weren't they?

(What, no commercials? Well, PlatypusComix.net has you covered--click here to see some of the ads they ran during this train wreck. And don't forget to look for the Union label, because TOBOR is ROBOT spelled backwards.)


Uncle Steve said...

Ah, Life Day, Why, there hasn't been a holiday celebration like that since...Festivus (for the rest of us).

Uncle Steve also said...

Yes, people were easily entertained in the late 70's. We had to have something to numb the pain of the Carter Administration. I guess this seemed like a good idea at the time.